New York 2140
I haven’t written about any books in a little while… let’s remedy that.
I recently finished New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson, they say don’t judge a book by its cover, but they say a lot of things so I say judge a book by whatever you want! New York 2140 first sparked my interest sometime last year when I was walking around London and saw it as a featured new release. The cover is this gorgeous skyline of a not too distant future New York and you can get an idea for the setting straight away. I added it to my audible wish list and eventually got round to listening to it last month.
New York 2140 is an environmental science fiction story focusing on a group of residents who live in what was once the MetLife building in Manhattans Madison Square.
Most of the big buildings are now owned, operated and house co-ops of a few hundred residents and they are all self sufficient, to a point.
We follow an ensemble cast, who in the audiobook version are all narrated by a different voice actor, and see how their individually insignificant lives come together to enact substantial change.
The reason for these co-ops is that New York has become a ‘new Venice,’ a canal city, after two great pulses over the decades between now and then caused the ice caps to melt drastically and sea levels to rise enough to at partially submerge every coastal city in the world.
But America, New York especially, is nothing but stubborn and so despite being now a city of jammed boating lanes instead of car traffic it is still the cultural and financial epicentre of the western world.
The cast of characters we follow is diverse, almost certainly intentional by Robinson to capture the diversity of New York’s residents no matter the year or circumstance.
We have Franklin, a successful hedge fund manager and playboy who generally doesn’t participate in the goings on around the building... until he meets Stefan and Roberto, two street rat wannabe treasure hunter kids who don’t officially live in the MetLife co-op but are always in the area and have been looked after in some way by the buildings superintendent, Vlade.
There is also the head of the householders union, Charlotte, the hacktavists who piss off the wrong people, Mutt and Jeff, the respected cop who lives in the building, Inspector Gen and the Cloud (Internet) celebrity environmentalist star Amelia.
All of their stories begin in very different places and it takes the first chunk of the book for the connecting threads to be sown.
The final character with whom we get the perspective of is simply known as The Citizen. It’s through these chapters that we get a lot of the exposition about the state of the world mixed in with a lot of interesting real life history about New York, that I at least was completely ignorant to. As the story progresses and the people of the MetLife building do their thing, The Citizen’s exposition starts to catch up and give up an everyman’s perspective of the events taking place through the rest of the book. I found myself really looking forward to these chapters later in the novel.
I don’t want to give too much away about the plot of the book as I’m hoping I’ve inspired you to check it out. I found it to be a really interesting look at a very possible future. While there are a number of high concept ideas floated out there (no pun intended) most everything in the book felt very grounded.
We hear a lot about the environmental factors that come with rapid climate change and the other ways in which we are decimating our planet but we don’t often hear about how those changes then effect political and economical situations around the globe too.
Kim Stanley Robinson tackles all of these ideas in one story while maintaining fun and adventure and never coming across as preachy or condemning. That in itself is impressive enough. The fact that the book has chapters about sunken British treasure from the revolutionary war and polar bears in airships is just icing on the cake.
New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson is available now in all good bookstores, Amazon, Kindle and Audible. I loved the audiobook version but if the physical copy includes maps, well I’m a sucker for a good map in a book so I might pick that up too. Enjoy.
(I really need to get a referral link sorted for amazon and audible so I can start making some money off these reviews huh?!)